December 19, 2017

Preacher to the Popes: Father Cantalamessa

This was filmed in February 2016 here at the Capuchin General Curia and at our friary in Frascati, outside of Rome. I was happy to be able to help with some of the arrangements and other practical matters. The director, Ashley Zahorian, had a genuine and devout passion for making known the ministry of the our confrere in his service as Preacher to the Papal Household.

(In the clip, in addition to Fr. Cantalamessa himself and others, you get to see Br. Mark of the Just a Brother blog, and Br. Clayton, who shows up now and again in my tweets as my 'boss.')

It's a project worthy of support. Check out the full website here.

November 3, 2017

Out of the Well

"Which of you, having a son or an ox that fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?" (Luke 14:5)

That's us, poor children of God and his dumb creatures who have fallen.

And just as the answer to the question is everyone, so Jesus does it too, drawing us up from our fallenness through the well of baptism, and on a sabbath day too, the Great Sabbath, Holy Saturday,  when he descends into the hell we have provided for ourselves with our sins and draws up our humanity, united to his, as the New Creation of which his Resurrection is the dawn.

November 1, 2017

"I Know Nothing Due To Holy Obedience"

An Irish priest sent me this gem of a footnote on Capuchin ignorance from Ulrich L. Lehner's Monastic Prisons and Torture Chambers: Crime and Punishment in Central European Monasteries 1600-1800.

(click to enlarge)

October 28, 2017

God Is Love

I remember once back in Yonkers I was caught off guard in need of a Sunday homily. A missionary priest was coming to make an appeal and was to preach at all the Masses for this purpose, so I hadn't prepared anything that week. His flight, however, was delayed, and he didn't make it in time for the Saturday vigil Mass.

So at the time of the homily I explained to the assembly how I was stuck. On the one hand, I was not willing to take them and my duties as a priest so lightly as to preach without having prepared. On the other hand, it was a Sunday Mass, and therefore the faithful had a right to a homily.

My solution: I brought and read a little passage of St. Augustine's comment on the gospel for that Sunday.

Something similar has happened to me this week. It was a busy week in the office with this and that, but especially preparing the English translation of the Minister General's circular letter for the upcoming beatification of Solanus Casey.

Composing a Sunday homily in Italian probably doesn't take me much longer than it does in English, but it requires a longer span of the week to check on things, find expressions, discover my errors, etc. And this week that time ran out.

So I decided I would write a little introduction, beg the people's understanding, and give them number 18 from Deus caritas est:
Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. 
Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave. Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbor which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. 
Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of [Saint] Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a “commandment” imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. 
Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

October 2, 2017

The Divine Mission of Brother Wicked Treasurer

Yesterday Pope Francis spoke to priests, religious, seminarians, and permanent deacons in the cathedral in Bologna. He took a couple of spontaneous questions. Here's part of one his answers to a religious who asked about, among other things, the 'psychology of survival' that the Holy Father has mentioned before. Here's part of the Pope's reply:

"You see those religious who are attached to money as a security. This is the heart of the psychology of survival; I am surviving, I have security, because I have money. The problem is not so much in chastity or obedience, no, it is in poverty. Fish rot from the head and religious life begins to become corrupt from the lack of poverty.*  This is truly how it is. St. Ignatius called poverty the ‘mother and wall’ of the religious life; ‘mother’ because she gives birth to the religious life, and ‘poverty’ because it is the defense against all worldliness. The psychology of survival makes you live in a worldly way, with worldly hopes, not to setting yourself on the path of divine hope, the hope that is of God. Money is very much the ruin of consecrated life. But God is so good, so good that, when an institute of consecrated life begins to make more and more money, the Lord is so good that he sends a wicked treasurer who makes everything collapse, and this is a grace! When the goods of a religious institute collapse, I say, ‘Thank you, Lord!’, because they will begin to walk the way of poverty and the true hope in the goods that the Lord gives: the true hope in that fecundity that journeying with the Lord gives. Please, I’m telling you, always, always make an examination of conscience on poverty: personal poverty, which is not just going to ask the permission of the superior to do something, but is deeper, it is an even deeper thing; and also the poverty of the institute, because this is the true survival of consecrated life, in the positive sense, that is to say that here is found the true hope that makes consecrated life grow."

*Il pesce incomincia a corrompersi dalla testa e la vita consacrata incomincia a corrompersi dalla mancanza di povertà.

Full text here.

The full reply of the part I quoted starts around :53.

September 19, 2017

Shrine of Renunciation

The other day, thanks to one of the friars, there arrived in my hands the English version of the pastoral letter of Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino for the recent opening of the Santuario della Spogliazione in Assisi, which recalls the moment when St. Francis, having been brought to trial by his father for the squandering of his goods, divested himself of his rights as an heir and what property he had, including the clothes he was wearing.

I'm glad it didn't fall to me to decide on the English for Santuario della Spogliazione, but this translator has made a fine choice with The Shrine of Renunciation.

The letter is really quite beautiful, and whoever made the translation did a very nice job.
The nakedness of Francis reminds us of Eden. It is not just penance and renunciation. It is a longing for original purity. It speaks something of the beauty planted by God in the body of man and woman before innocence was disordered by sin. It is nudity that is projected towards the splendor of the risen body, when the power of Christ will give new life to our mortal bodies. It is in nudity that we find the taste of truth and beauty, simplicity and sobriety, the serene awareness of our own creatureliness. Francis incarnates the wisdom of Job: “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again” (Job 1:21). (4)
The Shrine includes the church of St. Mary Major, which is in Capuchin care. Coincidentally, or not, it is right across the little Piazza del Vescovado from where I stayed the first time I visited Assisi, way back in 1993, at the Casa del Terziario.

Read the whole letter here.

August 29, 2017

Silver Jubilee of Christian Initiation

(An ongoing post, updated)

Today is my anniversary of baptism; I am twenty-five years old. It's my Silver Jubilee! When I think of the adventure that began that day at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in little Quaker Hill, Connecticut, I cannot but confess that one of the most abiding graces has been the 'cloud of witnesses' that has guided and supported me along the way. So today in my gratefulness I pray in special way for everyone the Lord has given me to accompany me in this journey.